It has been noted ironically by Justin Raimondo at antiwar and also by Scott McConnell over at The American Conservative how the neoconservative dominated American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus, which sees Chechens and other Central Asian Muslim militants as “freedom fighters” against Russian rule, exists side by side with other organizations like the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the American Enterprise Institute that feature many of the same neoconservatives dedicated to restraining Political Islam while extirpating what they frequently describe as “Islamic fascism.” As is frequently the case with ideologically driven positions, the American neocon supporters of Chechen independence have failed to note that the Chechen nationalist uprising of the 1980s has now morphed into an Islamic based insurgency. The contradictory behavior is particularly glaring as Chechens have frequently been identified among al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan and elsewhere and have carried out major terrorist operations in the Russian Confederation, highlighted by the killing of 186 schoolchildren at Beslan in September 2004. The friends of Chechnya response to the massacre has been to successfully pressure the State Department to provide political asylum and a government job for Ilyas Akhmadov, a rebel leader who might have been party to the terrorist attack, a bit of hypocrisy that the Russians have noted vis-à-vis Washington’s professed global war on terror.
The contradictions inherent in the neocon movement should not surprise anyone as they are anything but coherent on any subjects other than the need to use force to bring about regime change and their love of Israel. The neoconservatives are frequently referred to as “former Trotskyites,” a reference to their founding generation which attended the “intensely radical” City College in New York during the 1930s. Irving Kristol, the so-called father of neoconservatism, and his associates would occupy an alcove in the college cafeteria to discuss both politics and revolution. Those friends included literary critic Irving Howe, sociologist Daniel Bell, and sociologist Nathan Glazer. Though leftist radicals themselves, they were hostile to Joseph Stalin’s increasingly despotic rule in Russia and were much more drawn to the communism of Leon Trotsky, who was then in exile in Mexico. Trotsky advocated rule of the Soviet Union by a vanguard working class as part of a mass political movement that would engage in continuous revolution. As the struggle would ultimately involve the proletariat of all nations, this was perceived as a truly unending international revolution. Kristol carefully disconnected from any whiff of Soviet communism in the post Second World War environment, but he continued to believe in certain aspects of the Trotsky agenda even after he founded the movement that was later to be dubbed neoconservatism in the 1960s. He accepted military intervention to impose “democracy” and embraced the concept of continuous revolution, though he did not use that term as it had fallen out of favor.
Irving Kristol famously described his peers in the new movement as liberals who had been mugged by reality, understating his own radicalism, which went far beyond traditional liberalism. Kristol’s principal vehicle for propagating his views was Commentary magazine, which was then and still is a publication of the American Jewish Committee, so, from the start, Israel was a major preoccupation of the movement, which linked Israeli interests with demands for employment of American military power to create a real world environment supportive of what were perceived to be U.S. interests.
But neoconservatism would have died there, as a fringe movement, but for the emergence of a second generation that managed to insert itself into the federal government. The most prominent of these were Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz. Wolfowitz and several other future neocons were influenced by their time spent at the University of Chicago, where they came under the influence of Professor Leo Strauss. Strauss taught that the “perpetual deception of the citizens by those in power is critical because they need to be led, and they need strong rulers to tell them what’s good for them.” Many Strauss students later described themselves as “Straussians.”
It is sometimes suggested that Perle and Wolfowitz’s subsequent tenure as staffers for Washington Democratic Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson in the 1970s shaped their future political trajectories, but it is perhaps more probable that the reverse was true, that the arrival of Perle and Wolfowitz led to Jackson’s increased involvement in foreign policy. They likely used the Senator, a former truck driver frequently referred to as the Senator from Boeing, to advance their own agendas. As a Jackson staffer, Perle was the principal drafter of the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment to the 1972 Russian trade agreement which made the agreement contingent upon the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate. Though the amendment, which continued to be in effect until November 2012 when it was superseded by the Magnitsky bill, did not identify Soviet Jews explicitly, other ethnic minorities suffering under the Soviet yoke were de facto not considered to be the potential beneficiaries.
In addition to Perle and Wolfowitz, Elliott Abrams, and Douglas Feith were former aides to Jackson who switched parties and joined the first Ronald Reagan administration in 1981. They became particularly influential in the Defense Department, where Perle became Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy. Perle used his position to godfather Feith into the Pentagon after the latter had been fired from the National Security Council due to suspicion that he had passed classified information to Israel. Wolfowitz meanwhile became head of policy planning staff at the State Department.
The neocons were not particularly favored under George H. W. Bush and left government when Bill Clinton became president. Most returned to academia or set up businesses to profit from their Pentagon and Israeli connections. Several drafted a memo in 1996 called “A Clean Break,” which advised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the advisability of either destabilizing or changing regime in a number of Arab nations.
Many of the neocons returned to senior Pentagon and National Security Council positions under George W. Bush, including Wolfowitz and Feith as numbers two and three respectively at the Defense Department and Perle as Chairman of the Defense Policy Board. Then came 9/11. It was like a dream come true, providing an opportunity to pursue the neoconservative agenda of remaking the Muslim world along the lines of “A Clean Break.” Encouraging hostility towards Russia was also part of the program as Moscow was seen as a potential impediment to the neocon foreign policy, something that has proven to be true as Vladimir Putin has consistently opposed western intervention in Muslim countries. Russia, with its echoes of Soviet communism, also serves as a convenient “threat” to justify militarism more generally.
Since 2001, U.S. foreign policy has been dominated by neoconservative thinking under both Democratic and Republican presidencies, though the Democrats have modified it through their favored “humanitarian interventionism.” It has spawned any number of “American Committees” like that supporting the Chechens, to include groups focused on Iraq, Georgia (“we are all Georgians now”), Syria, Sudan, Libya, and Iran. All the committees feature feckless politicians and apparatchiks like John Bolton, Madeleine Albright, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham but the organizers are inevitably the neocons themselves. Bill Kristol, on the board of the Caucasus “peace” group, is joined there by Elliott Abrams, Kenneth Adelman, Midge Decter, Frank Gaffney, Michael Ledeen, and James Woolsey.
The neocon foreign policy team always advocates using maximum military force whenever a threat surfaces, unless one is designated a freedom fighter a la the Chechens, a status that is never awarded to the Palestinians or Hamas or Hezbollah. It also does not eschew turning a buck by engaging in advocacy for the unsupportable, to include substantial speaking honoraria from the terrorist group Mujaheddin e Khalq (MEK), which they have now succeeded in having removed from the U.S. government terrorist list in spite of the fact that the MEK has killed Americans.
Such “my enemy’s enemy” thinking forged an alliance with Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, who produced many of the lies that led to the senseless war with Iraq and who later spied against the United States on behalf of Iran. It has spawned an endless occupation in Afghanistan, something approaching a failed state in Pakistan, a disastrous war between Georgia and Russia, a whole flock of pastel revolutions in Eastern Europe that have produced little in the way of real democracy, a failed intervention in Libya, destabilization of Yemen and Somalia, a civil war in Syria that is spilling over into neighboring Lebanon, and the threat of a catastrophic war with Iran. Many of the positions being advocated not surprisingly confuse Israel’s interests with those of the United States, note particularly the current posturing regarding Iran and Syria. In spite of all their egregious failures, the neocons continue to enjoy excellent access to the media to peddle their nonsense.
Which brings us back to the Kristols. It would be possible, though laborious, to go through the list of prominent neocons and observe what they are doing now. All are prospering, thank you very much, and most are still taken seriously inside the beltway. Bill Kristol, who might perhaps be considered the heir to his father’s mantle, could be considered a good example of what they do and how they operate. Kristol is inter alia the founder and editor of the political magazine The Weekly Standard and a regular commentator on the Fox News Channel.
In addition to his advocacy on behalf of Chechnya, Kristol is associated with a number of prominent conservative think tanks, including the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, where he serves on the Leadership Council. He was chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle during the presidency of George H. W. Bush and later served as chairman of the New Citizenship Project from 1997 to 2005. In 1997, he was a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) with fellow neocon Robert Kagan. A director of the Foreign Policy Initiative, Kristol is also one of the three board members of Keep America Safe, co-founded by Liz Cheney and Debra Burlingame, and is on the board of the Emergency Committee for Israel.
Kristol believes that some people who kill children are not really terrorists because it very much depends on who is being attacked. On March 29, 2010, after two Chechen women suicide bombers set off huge explosions in subway stations in central Moscow, killing more than three dozen people, he said that the Russians “in some ways have brought” the terrorism “on themselves,” a judgment that he would be unlikely to make regarding either Israel or the United States.
In March 2011, Kristol penned an editorial for The Weekly Standard entitled “The Party of Freedom.” It was written on the eve of the U.S. intervention in Libya. It begins “And so, despite his doubts and dithering, President Obama is taking us to war in another Muslim country. Good for him.” It goes on to claim “Our invasions have in fact been liberations…in our own national interest, of course, but also to protect Muslim peoples and help them free themselves. Libya will be America’s fifth war of Muslim liberation.”
One is tempted to ask what American interest was served by invading Libya and to challenge how much “Muslim liberation” Kristol really wants to see as truly free Muslims might not like Israel a whole lot. The idiocy of his panegyric on America’s willingness to go to war to fix the Muslim problem is actually quite sickening but it is the same logic that places Kristol at the head of an organization that supports terrorism as long as it is directed against someone else, in this case Russia. The essential contradiction of American foreign policy neocon style is on open display and one has only to ask why Kristol does not consider the two young Chechens in Boston to be freedom fighters when they set off a bomb that blew up an eight year old boy. The carnage that Kristol and his friends have been cheerleading in a series of Muslim countries has borne bitter fruit and perhaps it’s time to end the hypocrisy.